Imagine taking a leisurely stroll through the East Village with a couple of friends who knows a lot about the neighborhood. They tell you which streets to turn down and as you walk, explain the history of places like the John Varvatos store, which used to be CBGB, point out the studios of artists like Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, which you otherwise wouldn’t realize you were walking past, and invite you to stop for a pint at McSorley’s Old Ale House as you walk down the Bowery. Listening to audio tours by Gesso is a bit like that except you’re listening to the app’s founders Henna Wang and Michael Reynolds using your headphones. There’s a map of the route and they narrate precise directions for you to follow, but you set your own pace.
Wang, Reynolds, and their co-founder Demetrio Filocamo started the Brooklyn-based app Gesso as a way to offer museums alternatives to the clunky audio devices you’re used to seeing, but they soon realized that by looking past museum walls, they could enlighten people with fun facts and tidbits about the places they might think they know. “We found by highlighting those places that you might have not noticed on your daily walks actually brought people a lot of joy,” Wang told Brooklyn Based.
Untapped New York is proud to partner with Gesso to offer audio tours of New York City. There are currently three tours available, two of which cover areas where Untapped doesn’t offer walking tours. Williamsburg | Hipsters + Holdouts guides you through Brooklyn’s original hipster mecca, stopping along the way to point out details like the Brooklyn Brewery logo, which was designed by Milton Glaser (the man who created the I Heart NY logo) and reveal hidden histories, both recent and from centuries ago, in Williamsburg and Greenpoint.
East Village | Punks + Poets starts in Greenwich Village at Washington Square Park, tracing the steps of some of the greatest folk and rock musicians of the 1960s, before heading to the East Village and explaining how punk evolved out of that scene. Along the way, Wang and Reynolds point out longstanding spots like Caffè Reggio, La MaMa, Fillmore East, and Trash and Vaudeville. During this audio tour, you also hear from people like photographers Roberta Bayley and David Godlis, who documented the scene at clubs like CBGB.
Brooklyn Bridge | Practical Grandeur reveals the hidden history behind the iconic bridge that’s become a symbol of New York City. You learn about the bridge’s engineer John Roebling, the vaults that held wine and Cold War-era provisions, and the bridge’s role in the Black Lives Matter protests.
Each audio tour is impeccably produced with layered music and sound effects, so it feels almost like listening to a podcast. When creating the audio tours, Wang and Reynolds walked the routes dozens of times, canvassing the area for interesting things to point out, researched the places they want to feature, and talked to experts in the topic. The tours cover 1.9 to 3.2 miles and cost $11.99 each. Check out all of them here.
Also check out our walking tours of New York City!